Access to Broadband Internet and its Utilization for Health Information Seeking and Health Communication among Informal Caregivers in the United States

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J Med Syst. 2021 Jan 15;45(2):24. doi: 10.1007/s10916-021-01708-9.


Informal caregivers provide unpaid care to their physically or mentally ill loved ones and play a critical role in the healthcare delivery. eHealth tools, including the broadband internet, can facilitate care processes and impact the caregiving burden through seeking health information and health communication. This study examines the predictors of access to broadband internet and the factors associated with health information seeking and health communication among informal caregivers with broadband internet. We used data from cycles 1 and 2 of the Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS 5) and employed generalized linear regression models with the maximum likelihood estimation. Specifically, we performed a two-part model: (1) a logistic regression model of broadband internet access among all caregivers (n = 929) and (2) a logistic regression model of health information seeking and health communication among caregivers with broadband internet access (n = 404). We found that caregivers who were younger (18-34 years versus 45+ years), female (versus male), and those who were divorced/widowed/separated (versus singles) were less likely to have broadband internet access. While those who were married/living as married (versus singles), with higher incomes (≥$100,000 versus <$35,000), and those living in metropolitan areas were more likely to have broadband internet access. Among caregivers with broadband internet access, younger, female, non-Hispanic white caregivers, and those with higher levels of education and income, as well as those who cared for cancer patients, were more likely to seek health information for someone else. Additionally, caregivers aged 35-39 years and those with more education were more likely to look for health information for themselves than their counterparts. Furthermore, caregivers who were aged 40-44 years, females, divorced/widowed/separated, those with higher incomes, and those who cared for patients with Alzheimer’s, confusion, and dementia were more likely to communicate electronically with a provider. The results suggest disparities in broadband internet access and indicate variations in factors associated with health information seeking and health communication. The findings underscore the need to address barriers attributed to the digital divide among informal caregiving groups.

PMID:33452625 | DOI:10.1007/s10916-021-01708-9